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Graphic scenes: Drama of 1916 brought to life in comic

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John Spain, Books Editor, Irish Independent, 15 January 2010

Graphic scenes: Drama of 1916 brought to life in comicEdit

1501 1916 indo 472491t

A scene from the graphic novel Blood Upon the Rose.

IT is the chaos and destruction of 1916 -- but not as we have seen it before.

Schoolchildren and adults are used to the many black and white photographs of the Easter Rising that adorn scores of books.

Now, the story of the Rising as told in a pioneering full-colour comic book format has become an unexpected publishing hit.

Full of compelling drawings depicting the bloody drama of the rebellion, the comic-style book, complete with speech bubbles, is being snapped up by young readers and teachers alike.

The 48-page graphic novel, by Dubliner Gerry Hunt, is called Blood Upon the Rose: Easter 1916 -- after the poem by one of the 1916 leaders, Joseph Mary Plunkett.

Ivan O'Brien, managing director of O'Brien Press, said yesterday: "There has been a very positive reaction from teachers and parents, who see Blood upon the Rose as an excellent introduction to this important event.

"A graphic novel dealing with Irish history was quite a departure for us and we are absolutely delighted with the hugely positive reaction.


"At a recent book signing in Chapters bookshop in Dublin, it was wonderful to see grandfathers and grandsons queuing to get their copy signed -- an indication of the wide-ranging appeal of this book."

The book was drawn by 73-year-old Mr Hunt, who worked for years as an architect with the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) before turning to drawing political cartoons and comics, his first love.

His late father, to whom the book is dedicated, had first-hand experience of the Rising, having been in Boland's Mills with Eamon de Valera.

"I had originally intended to do a graphic novel on the 1913 Lockout and it was my fellow artist BrenB, who coloured all my drawings for this book, who suggested doing the Rising. O'Brien Press loved the idea because they had been thinking along the same lines."

The book covers the complete story of the Rising up to the final executions and is framed around the tragic romance of Joseph Mary Plunkett and his fiancée Grace Gifford.

The novel opens as they exchange marriage vows in a cell in Kilmainham Gaol, shortly before he was executed and the story is then told in flashback.

Political graphic novels such as Maus and Persepolis have enjoyed huge international success recently. This new version of the 1916 story, which costs €13, is set to add to the bestselling genre.

Such is the interest in the book that a special exhibition based upon Blood upon the Rose will open on March 30 this year, and will be held at The Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin.

The exhibition will then travel to different venues around the country.

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